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U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, walks with them at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, walks with them at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales

NATO chief steps up rhetoric against Russia ahead of summit Add to ...

NATO’s secretary-general bluntly framed Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine as an attack on the beleaguered Eastern European country, setting the tone for a critical summit that will grapple with how to confront Russia’s re-emergence as a geopolitical threat but also the chaos spreading in Iraq.

“We are faced with a dramatically changed security environment,” NATO’s top official, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told media as he arrived at the Newport, Wales, golf resort where the summit is taking place. “To the east, Russia is attacking Ukraine.”

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The military alliance accuses Moscow of deploying as many as 1,000 Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists are battling Kiev’s forces. Russia, however, has only acknowledged that some of its troops have voluntarily taken vacation leave to join the fight.

Canada announced Thursday it would devote $4-million to help Ukraine and NATO allies counter a newly-bellicose Russia.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the aid after a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the NATO leaders’ summit near Cardiff, Wales.

Support of $1-million will be provided through the NATO Trust Funds to help Ukraine beef up its command and control capabilities including communications and computer systems as well as logistical controls within its armed forces.

In addition, the three NATO Centres of Excellence in the Baltic region – cyber security, energy security and strategic communications – will each receive support valued at up to $1-million to help Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania strengthen their ability to respond to Russian aggression.

Both initiatives will be funded through Canada’s Global Peace and Security Fund, which supports stabilization and reconstruction initiatives in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Supporting Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s efforts to destabilize and break up its southern neighbour is the top item at the NATO summit but leaders are finding themselves forced to confront the rising threat of the Islamic State of Islam and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Qaeda splinter group that’s wreaked havoc across Iraq.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he won’t rule out any type of military action including air strikes against the ISIL, which is holding a Briton captive and has executed two American journalists.

Mr. Cameron’s comments at the start of a NATO leaders’ summit near Cardiff, Wales on Thursday signal how the Islamic State of Islam and the Levant (ISIL) has risen quickly on the military alliance’s agenda.

“We … need to work in the region to put the squeeze on this appalling organization, which is effectively a terrorist region almost now in control of its own state,” the U.K. leader told the BBC.

“And we shouldn’t rule anything out as we do that,” Mr. Cameron said.

He said the first priority remains helping those on the ground fighting ISIL, including the Kurds, with continued supplies of weapons and possibly training.

“First of all we [need to] help those on the ground who are fighting this organization,” Mr. Cameron said.

The U.S. has already conducted air strikes against ISIL while the U.K. has conducted surveillance flights and provided aid to those affected by the group’s advance across the region.

“The most important thing to consider is that we mustn’t see this as something where you have a Western intervention over the heads of neighbouring states and leaving others to pick up the pieces,” Mr. Cameron said.

With files from Reuters News Agency

Follow on Twitter: @stevenchase

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